Regular one-on-one meetings are the most valuable coaching tool in a manager or servant leader’s toolkit. This is time set aside to meaningfully connect with your team members, uncover issues, and provide direct feedback to guide their growth. It’s a powerful exercise that can influence their time at the company and their overall career, but it’s too often misused and ineffective — or outright ignored.
Not Just Status Updates
When you set up one-on-ones, you must remember these aren’t frivolous meetings to catch up or to ask about the status of work projects. A good one-on-one meeting gives you the opportunity to connect with the person, not just the worker, so you can understand and serve them better.
It’s about building a relationship with them and developing their trust to allow you to be a better servant and coach for them. The best meetings are ones where they are doing most of the talking, sharing with you what’s on their mind. It doesn’t have to be work-related — often it isn’t — but it needs to get deep into what they care about and what’s affecting them the most at work and in their career.
Play For the Next Game
As a leader, you have a responsibility to your team members to help them be more effective in their current roles, but you also need to set them up for success in the role that follows. We’re well into the 21st century, and we should recognize by now that it’s highly unlikely you or they will retire in the same role or company as where you are today.
A selfish leader only helps their team members improve in their role, ignoring the path they’re following. To truly serve them, you must balance helping them succeed where they are today and moving them forward on their path — even if that path takes them off your team or away from your company. By establishing a culture of focused one-on-ones, you will be better able to understand them and their path, allowing you to be a more effective and empathetic leader.
Welcome Their Feedback
Part of leading a team also means continual growth on your part in order to serve your whole team well. No two people need the same leadership, so you have to learn and adjust your approach over time based on their needs. This means you must be open to upward-facing feedback.
Asking for feedback and growing because of it is a great way to serve your team. Many people are reluctant to give real feedback because they’ve become accustomed to it going nowhere — that’s why it’s crucial you actually accept and address what they share with you.
How 1904labs Does One-on-Ones
At 1904labs, we’ve established a culture of mindful growth and candid feedback. To support that, our leaders set up regular one-on-one meetings with their team members, following a list of best practices we’ve developed over our five years. Chief among those are: Start with “What’s on your mind?” and Make the meeting about them. We don’t know where the conversation will lead us, and that’s the point; if the meeting is for the team member, it’s important they get to set its direction.
As servant leaders, our responsibility is to help our team members be more effective in their teams and careers and accomplish the growth they seek. With regular one-on-ones, we have the chance to react quickly to the needs of our team. When our team members get to see us actively working for them, we build their trust and are able to achieve even more.
If you’re interested in working with a team that takes growth seriously and wants to actively invest in you, then you should take a look at our open positions. Whether you’re a servant leader or want to work with one, this could be the place for you!